German Jewish leader urges Merkel to back Israel's stance on Iran
President of Germany's Central Council of Jews meets German Chancellor during visit to new Jewish center in Munich.
Munich - The leader of Germany's Jewish community called on the German government Thursday to support Israel in the dispute over Iran's controversial nuclear program.
Israel's intelligence community has information about a threat posed by Iran that strongly contradicted the "loose" assessment of the United States, said Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
The council expects German to support the Israeli view that a hard line needs to be taken against Tehran, Knobloch said after a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel during a visit to a new Jewish center in Munich.
Merkel said there were suspicions that Iran's nuclear program "does not conform to the rules of transparency and one cannot be certain, therefore, that it serves peaceful purposes."
The chancellor, who plans to visit Israel with members of her cabinet in the middle of March, said Germany had a special responsibility towards the Jewish state.
Knobloch said after the meeting that Merkel told her she believed the United Nations Security Council could tighten sanctions against Iran, despite diverging views among its members.
The five permanent Security Council members and Germany already agreed on the outline of a new resolution that would impose further penalties if Tehran refused to halt uranium enrichment.
The West believes Iran is trying to master the technology in order to produce nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies. U.S. intelligence reports said in December 2007 that Iran halted the program in 2003.
Merkel and Knobloch also discussed right-wing extremism and related anti-Semitism in Germany, with the leader of the Jewish community calling for a ban on the neo-Nazi party NPD.
Merkel said her government would do all it could to help stamp out anti-Semitism, but said this was also "a task of society as a whole."
Earlier Merkel praised the way Jewish immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe were integrating into Germany's Jewish community
"We are very happy that we once again have Jewish life in Germany after the terrible history of National Socialism [Nazis]," the chancellor said, speaking Russian, which she learned while growing up in communist East Germany.
Merkel used the occasion to hammer on the theme of education to promote opportunity for all.
"We are an open country, but we can only be a unified country if we all have opportunity," she said.
During the visit to the new centre, Knobloch showed the chancellor around the community centre and the nearby synagogue.
The Munich synagogue was opened on November 9, 2006, on the anniversary of the "night of broken glass" in 1938 when Nazis attacked Jews and smashed synagogues across Germany.